San Antonio man sentenced to federal prison for perpetrating COVID-19 hoax, FBI says

Feds: Man claimed he paid an infected person to lick items at stores to scare people away

Grocery Store (KSAT 2020)

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio man who claimed online that he paid a COVID-19-positive person to lick items at local grocery stores has landed a sentence in federal prison.

Christopher Charles Perez, otherwise known as Christopher Robbins, was sentenced on Monday to 15 months in prison after a federal jury found him guilty of two counts of spreading false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Authorities said the 40-year-old man posted two “threatening” messages on Facebook in April 2020 as the virus began its initial spread.

The messages claimed that he paid someone who was infected with COVID-19 to lick items at grocery stores in the San Antonio area to deter people from visiting the businesses.

The Southwest Texas Fusion Center received a screenshot of the post on April 5, and the center then notified the FBI, according to a news release.

Upon further investigation, agents discovered that the threat was false and Perez did not pay someone to spread COVID-19. Perez also admitted to the hoax, investigators said.

“Trying to scare people with the threat of spreading dangerous diseases is no joking matter,” U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff said in the release. “This office takes seriously threats to harm the community and will prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”

FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said people who threaten to spread COVID-19 will be held accountable even if it’s a hoax.

“Perez’s actions were knowingly designed to spread fear and panic and today’s sentencing illustrates the seriousness of this crime,” Combs said.

In addition to the sentence, Perez will have to pay a $1,000 fine.

The news release says that the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force in May 2021 to help prevent pandemic-related fraud.

About the Author

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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